PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
SPEAKING OUT ABOUT LIVING WITH HIV IN PNG
By Evah Kuamin
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 2, 2011) – She has only been living with the HIV virus for the past two years but yesterday she took the courage and bravely allowed time to break the ice and speak to the media about her status.
Mary*(name withheld) is a 20-year-old Morobean woman and comes from Buigim Village in the Finschhafen District.
She was born the eldest child in a family of four and was in Grade 9 at the Dregerhafen Technical Secondary School when she first learnt about HIVAids.
That year 2008, she decided to withdraw from boarding school and spend her time helping her parents in the village. She contracted the virus in October 2009 and discovered her status after going for a HIV test at the Braun Memorial Hospital in Finschhafen.
She was placed on medical treatment for the past three years and is continuing to this day.
Mary left her home and joined the Morobe Network for People Living with HIV/Aids (MNPLWHA) just last year.
During this time, she has gained the courage to speak out openly about her status going on awareness and outreach to areas along the Okuk Highway.
Yesterday Mary left with a team from the MNPLWHA to conduct awareness in the Bulolo District.
It was a first for the young woman to go on the awareness campaign trail into Bulolo.
The shy, soft-spoken woman said it was difficult at first to openly speak out and disclose her status to her family and friends but she has slowly overcome this.
She was reluctant to inform her parents in fear that they might disown her from the family but this has proven otherwise. After learning of her status, her parents have accepted her and have helped by providing spiritual care.
Mary said she has a lot of other friends who have the same status as herself of whom some are as young as 14 years.
With the assistance of the different district aids committees in the province and partners, Mary has also been trained to be a counselor to help people who are in the same shoes as herself.
Her parents are the only family she has of whom she has disclosed her status.
She has plans that in the future, she would be able to break the ice and speak out openly in creating awareness and outreach on HIV/AIDS in her own community.
During awareness campaigns, Mary is given time to share her life testimony and leaves with a challenge to her peers and people not to indulge in risky and unsafe sexual practices.
[PIR editor’s note: In April 2011, social workers expressed concerns that HIV/AIDS’ prevalence in PNG was a continuing struggle. With one of the highest rates of HIV cases in the Pacific, the Australian Aid program predicted that, by 2012, more than 208,000 in PNG will be living with HIV/AIDS. However, rates have dropped as more funds and better awareness, including discarding stigmas about HIV/AIDS, have increased with new programs. A continuing concern brought forth by the National Aids Council of PNG, however, is the often unavailable stocks of treatment drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, which has been called a "national emergency as lives of people are at risk."]
PNG Post-Courier: http://www.postcourier.com.pg/